Bed Pillow Buyers Guide: Which Type is Right for You

Bed Pillow Buyers Guide

Shopping for the perfect bed pillow is just as crucial as shopping for a mattress. Without the right pillow, you'll be left tossing and turning all night, you may even find you wake up with a stiff neck. But how do you know which one is right for you? 

Our detailed guide will help you determine the right pillow to meet your needs and we've even found the best bed pillows on the market to give you a head start on your shopping. Learn what to look for and find your perfect match!

Bed Pillow Buyers Guide


Bed Pillow Filler Types

Today there's many different types of fillers available. So if you've always used a specific type, such as down or memory foam, you might want to see what else is on the market. You may be pleasantly surprised! 

Feather-Filled

Feather-filled bed pillows are typically made from goose or duck feathers. In most cases, the wing and back feathers are used. These feathers lay on top of the bird, which means they are not only flat, but they also have quills. 

Wing and back feathers are larger and more structured than the down that's used in a down-filled pillow. This allows the bed pillow to retain it's shape and firmness longer, yet still provide a fluffy and soft experience. Many back and side sleepers enjoy using feather-filled pillows

Pro's

Con's

  • Reasonably priced
  • Soft
  • More structure / Holds shape
  • Lightweight
  • Firm
  • Easily flattens, but can be fluffed
  • Quills my poke out and cause irritation
  • Tends to sleep hot
  • Not ideal for allergy sufferers

Down-Filled

A down-filled pillow is often thought of as the ultimate luxury. Down is an ultra soft group of quill-less feathers that come from goose, duck and sometimes swan. Down pillows are known for being soft, light and cozy. But their fluffiness doesn't offer much support to the user. 

High-end down pillows typically use a higher quality of down and can often be found under the name Hungarian Goose Down and European White Goose Down. 

Many down pillows have a mixture of down and feathers. The added feathers help give the pillow more weight and body. Keep in mind, if you're looking for the softest pillow, you'll want to have a higher down-to-feather ratio. Check the labels carefully to determine the percentage mix of down-to-feather. 

For individuals who enjoy a firmer bed pillow, down is not a good choice. Although, if you enjoy feeling like you're sleeping on a cloud, you'll be happy to know than these pillows tend to work well for any sleep position.

Pro's

Con's

  • Long-lasting
  • Lightweight
  • Soft and fluffy
  • Difficult to clean
  • Can be expensive
  • Needs fluffing
  • Some allergy sufferers can not tolerate down

Feathers vs. Down


Although both down and feathers come from geese or ducks, they are completely different.

Feathers - Are the outer covering on the bird. They repel water, have quills and allow the bird to fly.

Down - Is light and fluffy and usually located on the chest or belly of the bird under their protective feathers. Down keeps the bird warm by providing insulation. It doesn't have quills, but instead has a plumule that is soft and airy. Thousands of soft fibers originate from the core of the plumule and make up the surrounding down cluster. 

Memory Foam 

In recent years, memory foam pillows have gained widespread popularity. Today, many manufacturers such as Layla, make memory foam pillows in addition to mattresses.

Memory foam is made with polyurethane and it's not uncommon for the pillow to give off an odor, which in the industry is called "off-gassing."

One of the main advantages of using a memory foam pillow is it's ability to help align your neck and spine. Memory foam is responsive and dense and allows your head and neck to contour to the pillow. The name comes from the pillow's ability to "remember" and return to it's original shape when it's not in use. 

Memory foam pillows do not clump or require fluffing and they are easy to clean. They're best suited for individuals who sleep on their backs and are frequently used to assist with issues such as GERD or acid reflux.

Many people enjoy a shredded memory foam pillow which maintains the memory foam versatility while offering more of a pillow "feel".

Pro's

Con's

  • Durable
  • Contours to head and neck
  • Offers solid support for pain relief
  • Does not lump
  • Potential for off-gassing
  • Can retain body heat (not great for hot nights)

Microbead

Microbead bed pillows are filled with little beads called unexpanded polystyrene. The individual beads are roughly 3-to-4 mm in diameter and could be thought of as an alternative to the all natural buckwheat pillows, which we will talk about below.

These synthetic beads are supportive and moldable since you can shift them around to provide the support that best meets your needs. They also don't retain heat and are cool and breathable. Many back and side sleepers find these pillows to be a good match.

Microbead pillows tend to have a mushy feeling and are a popular filler for travel pillows. However, the negative impact the little beads have on the environment has made these pillows less popular. Manufacturers, typically market microbead pillows with names such as "air bead pillow" and "cloud pillow" to avoid the environmental controversy.

Pro's

Con's

  • Lightweight
  • Moldable
  • Breathable / Promotes airflow
  • Offers good support for neck, head, and shoulders
  • Hazardous off-gassing
  • Not durable and breaks down quickly
  • Traditional sized pillow cases rarely fit
  • Not eco-friendly

Buckwheat

If you're considering purchasing a microbead pillow, you definitely want to take a close look at the buckwheat bed pillow.  Buckwheat pillows are more comfortable, do not have an off-gasing odor, and are environmentally friendly.

They're excellent for relieving tension, headaches, and other ailments that stem from the head, neck, and/or shoulders, and they don't collapse or flatten. They also promote airflow which gives the pillow a cooler feeling.

Although, not as common, buckwheat pillows have been around for many years and are steadily  gaining in popularity. 

From the outer casing to the inner buckwheat stuffing they're an excellent all-natural choice. With their ability to mold to your body and provide excellent support, these pillows are typically a good fit for all types of sleepers. 

Pro's

Con's

  • Great support
  • Moldable
  • Promotes airflow
  • Hypoallergenic
  • All natural and eco-friendly
  • Can be noisy
  • Has a crunchy feel
  • Heavy 
  • Some stomach sleepers find them too firm
Sleeping on a Pillow

Types of Bed Pillows

Sleep Apnea Pillows

Do you suffer from a condition called sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where breathing stops and starts repeatedly throughout the night. This potentially serious condition often causes loud snoring and tiredness, even after a full night of sleep.

If you struggle with sleep apnea the number one treatment is to help open your airway in order to improve your breathing. 

There are sleep apnea pillows designed specifically to be used with a CPAP machine that help manage the mask and hose. But there are also other pillows available for those individuals who do not use a CPAP.


Neck Support Pillows

If you suffer from neck pain, it's essential that you find a pillow that provides the proper cervical support. But even if you aren't among the millions of people that wake up with neck pain or stiffness, you'll likely benefit from using this type of pillow.

When a pillow is designed to support the neck in a neutral alignment there's less stresses placed on the tendons, muscles and bone structure. The result not only is a better night of sleep, but also less discomfort.

There are a number of different types of neck pillows available in both style and materials. Generally speaking, a pillow that gives you optimal neck support will have inner chambers, flexibility, and comfort.

Some of the best neck support bed pillows are made with shredded foam. This type of construction helps mold to your neck and spring back to its original shape when not in use. Orthopedic or cervical pillows offer a depression where your head is positioned and adds additional support under the neck.


Full Body Support Pillows

Also known as body pillows are an oversized pillow that extends the length of your entire body. They mold to your body, provide support and can even eliminate pain in your elbows and knees.

Body pillows are enjoyed by many pregnant women, but you don't need to be pregnant to benefit from the comfort and tension relief they provide.


Wedge Pillows

If you suffer from acid reflux or other issues that require an upright position to sleep, a wedge bed pillow is a great solution. Those who might benefit from a wedge pillow are pregnant women, acid reflux sufferers, and snorers.  

The shape of a wedge pillow is just as it sounds: a wedge. This gives you an elevated position from your head down to your chest. 

There are many different styles of wedge pillows available and you can even find one for your legs. Raising your legs can help with issues such as swelling, inflammation, and blood circulation.

Variety of Pillow Sizes on a Bed

Pillow Sizes

Pillows come in a variety of sizes and the size you choose may be based on more than sleeping. Since you want your bedroom to look sharp during the day as well, you may want to pick up a few decorative pillows. Here are the most common pillow sizes on the market. 

Standard

Most sheet sets come with standard sized pillowcases, and in order to use them, you'll need standard sized bed pillows. But is this the right size for you?

  • Size: 20 x 25 inches
  • Shape: Rectangular or square
  • Advantages: Good for smaller frames and back sleepers
  • Disadvantages: Not always suitable for different sleep positions. Also, from a aesthetic point, they may not take up the entire space on a larger bed. 

Queen

Many people don't know that queen-sized bed pillows exist. In fact, they are not that different in size compared to a standard pillow. In many cases, a queen bed pillow will fit into a standard sized pillowcase. 

  • Size: 20 x 30 inches
  • Shape: Rectangular or square
  • Advantages: Can fit standard sized pillow cases, good for back, stomach, and side sleepers
  • Disadvantages: Not ideal for smaller frames

King

King bed pillows are great for king-sized beds because they are capable of covering the width of your bed with just two pillows. 

  • Size: 20 x 36 inches
  • Shape: Rectangular or square
  • Advantages: Large enough to only need one pillow
  • Disadvantages: Too large for small frames, may hinder certain sleep positions such as back or stomach sleeping

European

European pillows are not meant for long-term sleeping solutions. They're used primarily for decorative purposes on couches or as throw pillows on your bed. 

  • Size: 25 x 25 inches
  • Shape: Square
  • Advantages: Great for decorative purposes
  • Disadvantages: Not ideal for prolonged sleeping

Body Pillow

Body pillows are wonderful for many reasons, whether you're pregnant, injured or just want a cozy pillow to cuddle into. Many people never give them up once they start sleeping with a body pillow.

  • Size: 20 x 72 inches
  • Shape: Long and rectangular
  • Advantages: Relieves pressure on pain points, great for pregnant women, supports entire body
  • Disadvantages: Takes up space, can flatten over time

Travel Pillow

Traveling brings about it's own set of challenges, but a travel pillow can help make the trip enjoyable and relieve stress. These pillows come in 2 main styles; slightly rectangular or u-shaped. Which works best is a personal preference. 

  • Size: 11 x 16 inches
  • Shape: Slightly rectangular / More similar to a square, sometimes U-shaped
  • Advantages: Easy to transport and pack away, small enough to use in a car, airplane, or train, temporary support while sleeping on trips
  • Disadvantages: Not intended for long-term support

Neck Roll Pillow

Neck roll pillows are great for back sleepers because they provide wonderful support for the neck.

  • Size: 6.5 x 13 inches
  • Shape: Tubular
  • Advantages: Supports your neck while sleeping, great for propping ankles or legs up when injured or concerned about swelling / inflammation
  • Disadvantages: Needs constant re-fluffing, may flatten over time, not recommended for use as the only pillow